Sheriff of 'Rust' investigation speaks of 'troubling' text messages

Sheriff of ‘Rust’ investigation speaks of ‘troubling’ text messages

A day after releasing videos and documents related to the fatal shooting on the “Rust” film set, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told NBC’s “Today” show that the text messages are ” concerning” and that the investigation into who brought the live ammunition on set is continuing.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot and director Joel Souza was injured during a rehearsal for a scene from the film on the New Mexico set in October.

“At this time, no one has come forward and admitted to bringing the live rounds onto the film set. There was some text message information that was concerning due to the fact that live ammunition was discussed and possibly used on a previous film set,” and that was only a few months before production began on the ‘Rust’ film set, so it’s concerning,” Sheriff Mendoza said.

Among the items investigators are looking at are text messages that “Rust” movie gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed shared with an ammunition supplier for an earlier movie in 2021, not “Rust,” where she stated that she planned to shoot live ammunition while on set.

The exchange of messages was included in Monday’s public release of files related to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office’s ongoing investigation.

A law enforcement officer told Citizen Free Press they consider the text exchange important as they try to determine if the gunsmith had a practice of conducting live-fire drills while also being responsible for security on sets.

Gutierrez Reed’s attorney, Jason Bowles, told Citizen Free Press that his client wanted to fire the gun to understand how the historic weapon worked and maintains that he did not fire live bullets on set.

Mendoza said the investigation into the case is over 200 pages at this point and they are still awaiting forensic reports from the FBI and the final report from the medical investigator’s office.

“It’s hard to determine at this point what route the case will take,” he said. “I’ve said this before, I think there was complacency on set. There was disorganization and a degree of negligence. If that rises to a criminal level, that’s up to the district attorney.”

He also said whether actor Alec Baldwin will be ultimately responsible for the shot that killed the film’s cinematographer and injured the assistant director would be left up to the district attorney’s office.

“I don’t think anyone is off the hook when it comes to criminal charges,” Mendoza said.

In an effort to be “transparent” about the “Rust” shooting investigation, the sheriff said the extensive information release was part of a public records request.

“As you can see, it’s a huge amount of information, and it took us a while to put it together and we tried to publish it as soon as we had it all together and we had an avenue to get the information out,” Mendoza said.

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